Drug bust suspects return to court | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Drug bust suspects return to court

by Gregory Crofton

In July, just after law enforcement broke up a methamphetamine ring in South Lake Tahoe, agents paged a Modesto supplier who hadn’t heard of the bust.

SLEDNET, South Shore’s multiagency drug enforcement team, pretended to be a regular customer and requested a pound of meth from the man.

They met July 28 at a McDonald’s parking lot in Lodi, Calif. At the scene, agents arrested Juan Manuel Garcia-Aguilar, a 43-year-old from Modesto, Calif., on a federal warrant. They also found in his van the pound of the meth they had ordered.

In bulk, that much of the drug sells for $5,000 to $7,000. On the street, a pound is worth more than $27,000, according to SLEDNET Task Force Cmdr. Christopher Elliott.

Garcia-Aguilar is one of 21 people hooked in a bust that utilized wire taps. SLEDNET, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and California Department of Justice investigated the case. Two suspects, Efrain Villa Gomez and Alfredo Lopez-Garcia, remain at large. Charges against two suspects have been dropped.

Since his arrest, Garcia-Aguilar has pleaded guilty to possessing and conspiring to sell methamphetamine and will likely spend eight years in prison.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Grad, 12 people in custody, including Garcia-Aguilar, have pleaded guilty. She expects to receive guilty pleas from five more suspects by March 1.

Four suspects, including Luis Martinez, who authorities believe headed the drug ring, are expected to take their cases to trial. If convicted of the drug charges against him, Martinez could be sentenced to 16 years in prison. If he pleads out, Grad said he would spend 12 to 14 years in prison. Martinez has been in Sacramento County Jail since his arrest in May.

“We noticed a substantial difference after this bust,” Elliott said. “Our meth seizures went down to zero for at least two months after that. But it’s still out there.”

Methamphetamine is a stimulant that works on the brain and central nervous system by interfering with normal nerve functions. It’s made with over-the-counter drugs and household chemicals.

During the sting, investigators said informants bought pounds of methamphetamine at South Shore.

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